Memoriam – To The End (Reaper Entertainment)

For many Bolt Thrower fans, Memoriam represent a continuation of their heroes’ legacy.

That’s no real surprise, given that the band are fronted by former ‘Thrower vocalist Karl Willetts and started out with original BT drummer Andy Whale behind the kit.

2017’s debut, For The Fallen and its successors, The Silent Vigil and Requiem For Mankind, did not just rehash past glories. Memoriam quickly defined their own style and guitarist Scott Fairfax, a few years younger than his bandmates, brought 21st century death metal influences to the table.

Yet those three albums were built with Bolt Thrower’s world-eating death metal at their foundations. The artillery salvoes of Spearhead and Warmaster echoed across the decades.

And anyone hearing To The End’s opener, Onwards Into Battle, will be taken back to a time when For Victory and The IVth Crusade reigned supreme. It’s one of the finest songs in Memoriam’s canon, a behemoth striding across plains of blood and slaughter.

The bone splintering onslaught of Vacant Stare, meanwhile, harks back to For The Fallen cuts such as Surrounded By Death. Along with This War Is Won, these songs represent reassuringly familiar territory for the quartet’s followers: scorched earth death metal born of the scene’s most savvy musicians.

But Willetts, ex-Benediction bassist Frank Healey and Fairfax have spread their wings further than ever before on To The End.

Together with explosive new drummer Spike T. Smith – who has also played with Healey in UK hardcore/metal legends Sacrilege – they have bravely entered a new chapter, one that embraces new dimensions in extremity… and is less closely tied to the classic works of Bolt Thrower and Benediction.

Each Step Closer (To The Grave) crawls six feet under at a snail’s pace, a death doom hymn shrouded in mouldering velvet. It’s a major departure from the double kick devastation of Drone Strike or Undefeated, and shares more DNA with the Peaceville three than early 90s Earache.

It’s also one hell of a song.

As My Heart Goes On, in a similar vein, echoes the grandeur of Gothic-era Paradise Lost.

And then there’s Mass Psychosis, which sounds like Justin Broadrick jamming in a freezing basement with Killing Joke – and turns Willetts into Jaz Coleman’s Brummie avatar.

Driven by an industrial pulse, it’s unstoppable and addictive.

There are parts of No Effect which feel a little out of sync, as if they don’t really suit Memoriam. 

But elsewhere, the band combine their greater embrace of melody with the vicious streak that has always permeated their work – the title track and Failure To Comply are fine examples.

A brave new world for Memoriam…

Perhaps To The End will be a step too far away from the Realm Of Chaos for some Bolt Thrower loyalists.

But they’d be missing out on an enthralling opus… and a record which both draws from the past and faces the future.